Cornerhouse AV Technician Dave Petty reviews Julia’s Eyes
Before you ask (and I’m sure you have done, what with the film’s poster hardly trying to avoid the comparison), Julia’s Eyes is not The Orphanage II. Whereas the credits remain the same (Guillermo del Toro ‘presents’ the film and Belén Rueda takes the lead role), this is not the supernatural ghost story that del Torro’s previous film was – this is a bang-for-your-buck Friday night thriller, and not a bad one at that.
Rueda’s Julia – here playing dual roles as twin sisters – suffers from a degenerative eye condition, her sight deteriorating in the same way her sister Sarah’s did. With Sarah committing suicide within the opening five minutes (it’s no spoiler!), and with no warning that she was suicidal, it falls on Julia and her husband to solve the mystery of why she felt the need to take her own life. With the suspicion of someone else being involved in the suicide, an elderly neighbour with further details of Sarah’s private life to thicken the plot, and a too-good-to-be-true care worker who ends up looking after Julia once her eyesight is lost, there almost seems too many loose ends to tie up at around the halfway mark; you’re left wondering how the film might find the room to join the dots and pull it all together. But it does – just – and it’s the film’s relentless pace that keeps the rug firmly pulled from under you at all times.
Julia’s Eyes owes a great debt to a vast number of thrillers and whodunits, with a myriad influences and references firmly worn on its sleeve. Though the one that sprung to mind for me was Mute Witness, Anthony Waller’s 1994 horror-thriller about a mute special effects make-up artist bearing witness to a supposed murder on the film set she’s working on. Admittedly the comparisons are often only cosmetic, but when one protagonist can’t speak and the other can’t see, it’s not hard to draw parallels between the two. The American remake of Mute Witness is also just around the corner, something no doubt destined for Julia’s Eyes in the not too distant future.
The film looks great, Rueda is great, and as far as a good night out at the flicks goes, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The only real criticism I can level at it (and this goes for Mute Witness too) is that one has to suspend one’s disbelief a little too often; convenient meet-cutes (with a horror twist) and slightly dubious character connections start to stretch the realms of plausibility as the climax looms. That said, the fact that the film relies a little too heavily on the umpteen twists and turns of its plot is arguably part of its charm, and may well leave you hungry for a second viewing.